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Jennifer McGuire

General Manager and Editor in Chief

Tracking our coverage of the B.C. election

Categories: Canada, Journalism, Politics

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At CBC News, we know that when a big story happens, Canadians turn to us for accurate and insightful coverage. An election campaign is one of those times.

Right now, there's a hotly contested provincial election underway in British Columbia. We're giving it thorough and in-depth coverage, of course, but we also have measures in place to ensure that our coverage is fair to all parties. This is part of our promise as stated in our Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Here's how we do it:

Everyone who produces an election story in B.C. during the campaign logs the story into an online database. The information required by the log covers a range of information, including the length of the story, the topic, who appears in it, and how long these appearances last. It's an efficient process and captures a lot of information quite quickly and at low cost.

Every few days, we generate reports from the data base for our journalistic leaders, showing them the amount of time we spent talking about each party, the percentage of the total election-coverage time each party has received, the amount of time non-politician party partisans are on the air and key data on several other parameters. From these, editorial leaders can see a total picture of our coverage and adjust as necessary.

We're confident that our experience and expertise as journalists ensures we cover the election stories that matter in a fair and even-handed way. With multiple platforms and numerous programs, this system is a second gauge, enabling us to double-check that: to track of our coverage, identify trends, spot anomalies, and respond accurately to any questions or complaints we receive.

The most recent reports from our system show us that after two weeks of official campaigning, our CBC News coverage is - as we intended - balanced. The figures look good for all stations and programs; they all appear to be on track.

Here are the numbers so far. We will report back again after the campaign ends.

Briefly, election coverage across our BC programming totals just over 37 hours. Of that, just over 33% is about the Liberals and the same amount - 33% - about the NDP, with about 9% for the Greens and 7% the Conservatives.

Remember though that balance is not just measured by a numerical equivalency. Established parties tend to run more candidates, thereby generating more coverage. And of course, a party or leader's prominence will sometimes fluctuate because a story or issue involving them may arise during the campaign.

In British Columbia, the race is between the governing Liberals and the NDP. Our coverage seems to reflect that reality, featuring them in more news stories than the other parties. The Conservatives and the Green Party are not fielding candidates in every riding.

Keep that in mind when reading the following measures:

  • Candidates, managers and those directly affiliated with the Liberals are heard/seen in a little over 19% of our coverage, the NDP in just under 18%, the Greens in 8% and the Conservatives in 5%. 
  • Party leader "face/voice time": the Liberals' Christy Clark has been seen/heard for 1hr and 28 minutes; the NDP's Adrian Dix 1hr and 22 minutes; the Green's Jane Sterk for 57 minutes; and the Conservatives' John Cummins for 35 minutes. 

Again, balance in these categories is compared to a number of factors, including popular vote during the last election, standing in the legislature, number of candidates each party is running, and the latest standing in legitimate polling data.

Our tracking is useful in another way. It helps our journalists identify the top election issues. "Energy/power projects" continues to top the list in B.C. right now, followed by "the economy". And "the environment" has now pushed "employment" out of third place.

This tracking will continue until election night on Tuesday, May 14.

David Studer, Director
Journalism Standards and Practices
CBC News


After a little over three weeks of official campaigning and with only a few days left (voting day is Tuesday May 14), our coverage continues to be even-handed. The results continue to look good for all stations and programs. All appear to be on track.

Briefly, election coverage on all BC stations now totals just under 60 hours (this week we did some 20 hours of coverage, about 1 hour more than last week and two hours more that the first week). Of that, just over 34% (33% last week) was about the Liberals and about 31% (33% last week) about the NDP. About 8% went to the Greens and 7% to the Conservatives (no change from last week).

The additional coverage of the Liberals (and this encompasses both positive and negative stories, of course) may be accounted for chiefly by former Liberal BC premier Gordon Wilson's decision this week to return to the party.

Looking at another measurement, candidates, managers and those directly affiliated with the Liberals were heard/seen in a little over 19% of our coverage (same as last week), the NDP also in 19% (a slight increase), the Greens in 7% and the Conservatives in 6%.

Regarding the party leaders' face/voice time, the NDP's Adrian Dix has been seen/heard for 2hrs; the Liberals' Christy Clark 1hr and 55 minutes (both an increase of about 30 minutes over the week); the Green's Jane Sterk for 1hr and 15 minutes; and the Conservatives John Cummins 52 minutes.

The top issues continue to be energy/power projects followed by the economy. However, employment and education (now third and fourth) have pushed the environment (third last week) well down the list.

Tags: How We Work, Policy

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